Wednesday, January 07, 2009

CJI not exempt from RTI

A three member bench of the Central Information Commission has ruled that the Chief Justice of India is not exempt from the purview of RTI, TOI reports.

An RTI activist has asked to know whether SC judges had been regularly declaring their assets to the CJI since 1997, as rquired by an apex bench resolution at that time. The SC had taken the position that the information was not with the registry but with the CJI's office and the CJI himself was exempt from RTI, hence the information could not be provided. The CIC has rejected this contention as well. It has ruled:

“If any information is available with one section of the department, it shall be deemed to available with the public authority as one single entity.”

This is a valuable ruling indeed because no government institution can now withhold information on the ground that the particular department or official from which information is sought does not have keep the information- if information is available anywhere within the institution, it has to be provided.

Significantly, the application to the SC had not sought copies of declarations of the assets themselves. This is a more thorny issue. On this, TOI reports, the CJI has taken the position that this is information obtained by the CJI in a "fiduciary relationship" and that it was "personal information", hence details of judges' assets need not be made available to the public.

1 comment:

Kanan Jaswal said...

I am really astonished at the importance people place on the practice of various government functionaries submitting statements of their assets and liabilities every year. Have these statements ever been successfully used to catch the corrupt, whose assets - declared and undeclared - dwarf their known sources of income? Like scores of other things official in this country, it is just an eye wash.

As for the chief information commissioner pontificating on the RTI Act applying to all and sundry, what is he doing to thousands of complaints gathering dust in his office? Let's do away with these sinecures for retired bureaucrats and judges, and use the funds saved more productively elsewhere.